SNP set to adopt Corbyn's plan for four day week in policy that would 'cost public sector £2.5bn'

Dan Sanderson
·4 min read
Jeremy Corbyn put forward the proposal in his 2019 manifesto which was roundly rejected by voters - Leon Neal/Getty
Jeremy Corbyn put forward the proposal in his 2019 manifesto which was roundly rejected by voters - Leon Neal/Getty

Jeremy Corbyn’s controversial four-day working week policy is set to be adopted by the SNP.

In a conference motion to be debated on Monday, activists are expected to support calls for Scottish ministers to conduct a review of the plan with a view to making it an official policy.

Opponents said that if implemented, the "ludicrous" policy would cost Scottish public bodies more than £2.5 billion, or mean slashing wages or services.

Cutting working hours was a flagship policy of Mr Corbyn when he was Labour leader, with a promise to move to a 32-hour week within a decade part of his manifesto for last year’s election, which saw the party record its worst result since 1935.

In a resolution about “jobs and building the wellbeing economy”, to be debated immediately after a keynote speech by finance secretary Kate Forbes, a move away from “a goal of ever-greater economic growth and consumption” is proposed.

It states: “Conference calls on the Scottish Government to undertake a review into how working practices should be adapted to meet the needs of the future economy, including the possibility of a four-day working week and more support for people to work from home or closer to home, with a view to reform when Scotland gains full control of employment rights.”

An independent Scotland, the resolution adds, would adopt a “wellbeing economy based on progressive taxation and rejecting Westminster’s failed deregulation fantasies”.

The Scottish Tories said that delivering the plan, without cutting staff salaries or public services, would cost the NHS an extra £1.5bn, the education system would need an extra £430 million, Police would require £431m, the fire service would need another £108m and the prison service would need an extra £43m.

Maurice Golden, economy spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said the £2.5bn bill for the public sector would be only a starting point, as other taxpayer-funded organisations would also have to adopt the policy.

The motion will be debated after a keynote address by Kate Forbes, the SNP finance secretary - Fraser Bremner/PA
The motion will be debated after a keynote address by Kate Forbes, the SNP finance secretary - Fraser Bremner/PA

He said: “This ludicrous SNP plan would blow a £2.5 billion pound hole in the Scottish Budget every year.   

“Pushing ahead with this nonsense would mean choosing between shutting public services or finding billions of pounds extra to keep our schools, hospitals and emergency services operating at the same capacity as they do now.

“So the SNP need to explain this cavalier approach and tell the public if their preference is to inflict savage cuts on public services or force us to put up with a four-day school system and hurt the NHS.

“This is right up there with all the fantasy nationalist plans to freely print money and use whatever currency they fancy. SNP ministers clearly don’t live in the real world.”

Nicola Sturgeon has previously called on private firms to “embrace” a four day working week, with advocates claiming it leads to greater productivity among employees.

Earlier this year, she said employers should not slip into “old and bad ways of doing things” as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

She added: “Things like a four-day week are no longer things that we should just be talking about, these are things we should be encouraging employers to look at embracing, and there are a whole range of things that fall into that category.”

Responding to criticism of the plan, George Adam, the nationalist MSP, said: "Once again the Tories are well out of step with the views of Scottish voters - in July a poll found that 70 per cent would back a four day working week.   

"The idea of a four-day week is one that is currently gaining momentum across the globe as we look to rebuild a different economy that is fit for the future. 

"It is absolutely right that we discuss progressive policies like this as we look to improve the lives of people in Scotland and support our economic recovery in the coming years. 

"The SNP won't be taking any lectures on workers' rights from the party who opposed the minimum wage and now want to scrap the 48 hour limit on a working week."